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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Florence v. Board Of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington case brief

Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders 132 S. Ct. 1510

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: A district court granted summary judgment to petitioner former detainee in a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action against defendant jail officials in which he alleged Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The district court ruled that "strip-searching" nonindictable offenders (NIO) without reasonable suspicion violated the Fourth Amendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed. Certiorari was granted.

FACTS: Deference had to be given to jail officials unless substantial evidence showed their response to the situation was exaggerated. Concerns about gang members provided a reasonable basis to justify a visual inspection for signs of gang affiliation during intake. Detecting contraband concealed by new detainees was a most serious responsibility. The seriousness of an offense was a poor predictor of who had contraband, and it would be difficult in practice to determine whether individual detainees fell within the proposed NIO exemption. Those offenders could be put at greater risk from more contraband being brought in, a substantial reason not to mandate an exception for NIOs or for those not charged with an offense involving a weapon or drugs as a matter of constitutional law. The officers conducting an initial search often had no access to criminal history records, as the detainee's rap sheet did not reflect his previous arrest for possession of a deadly weapon. The search procedures to which petitioner was subjected struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the jail's needs. The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments did not require adoption of an exemption for NIOs.

CONCLUSION: The Third Circuit's judgment, reversing the ruling that "strip-searching" nonindictable offenders without reasonable suspicion violated the Fourth Amendment, was affirmed. 5-4 Decision; 2 concurrences; 1 dissent.

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